EU's Juncker says proposals to avoid Brexit 'fair' for all 28 members

3rd February 2016, Comments 0 comments

The proposed deal to keep Britain in the European Union and avoid a "Brexit" after a referendum is "fair" for Britain and its 27 partners, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday.

Juncker spoke a day after EU Council President Donald Tusk unveiled a series of proposals to help persuade Britons to stay in the European Union.

The commission, the executive of the 28-nation bloc, firmly supported the proposals, Juncker told members of the European Parliament who will need to approve several of the plan's most controversial points.

"The settlement that has been proposed is fair for the United Kingdom and fair for the other 27 member states," Juncker told the parliament in Strasbourg, France.

"It is also fair for the European parliament," he added.

The proposals include a four-year "emergency brake" on welfare payments for EU migrant workers, protection for countries that do not use the euro currency and a "red card" system giving national parliaments more power.

"We have addressed the prime minister's concerns while respecting the (EU) treaties," Juncker said.

"I've always said I wanted the UK to remain a member of the European Union on the basis of the fair deal," he told the MEPs including members of the UK Independence Party that back an exit by Britain from the EU.

- 'He won't get another thing' -

UKIP head Nigel Farage ridiculed the proposals that were "hardly worth the wait" and said British Prime Minister Cameron would now "parade in front" of EU leaders for more concessions at a summit in two weeks.

"I find it rather humiliating that a British prime minister has to do this. But I'm certain of one thing: he won't get another thing," Farage told MEPs.

Former Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt urged his fellow MEPs to avoid giving too many concessions to Cameron.

"We should not add emergency brakes every time a European leader faces a problem with his public opinion," Verhofstadt said.

Manfred Weber, the head of the right-of-centre European People's Party (EPP) party also warned of conceding too much to Britain: "We don't want only a British Europe, we want a Europe for all," he said.

His party "wants the UK to stay in the EU and for the people of UK to be convinced it is better to stay," he added.

The European Commission meanwhile confirmed that the "migration brake" would be available to all EU states even though it had been designed for Britain.

"On the safeguard mechanism... this mechanism is of course tailor-made to the UK situation and a response to one of the issues that prime minister Cameron raised," Juncker's spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news briefing in Brussels.

"Of course once we have the legislation, the same EU legislation will be applicable for others."

The unveiling of Tusk's plan launched two weeks of intense negotiations to reach a deal at an EU summit later this month.

Cameron on Tuesday said Tusk's plans showed "real progress" and made it likely that he would campaign to stay in the EU in a referendum expected in June.

London's bid to transform its EU membership has added to the turmoil as the bloc struggles with the biggest influx of migrants since World War II and the fallout from the eurozone debt crisis.


© 2016 AFP

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